EXCLUSIVE: Tim Henman on cancelling Wimbledon and what happens next for tennis

Wimbledon
Tim Henman at Wimbledon

Tim Henman has given Tennis365 an exclusive insight into the chain of events that led to the cancellation of this year’s Wimbledon Championships, as he insisted all alternatives were considered before the final call was made to abandon the 2020 tournament amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The four-time Wimbledon semi-finalist, who has been a key member of the All England Club’s board in recent years, admits he never imagined he would be part of a committee that would cancel The Championships for the first time since World War II.

Wimbledon general view

Yet he admits the events surrounding the spread of Covid-19 gathered momentum at such a pace that last week’s announcement to cancel Wimbledon was unavoidable.

“Coronavirus has been on the radar for a while, but I remember when Indian Wells was cancelled and there were some people saying it was a massive over-reaction,” begins Henman. “At that point, we didn’t feel the need to make a decision on Wimbledon, but events moved so quickly all around the world and the press release last week confirmed our decision.

“We have been having weekly conference calls and we were in one of those calls when the French Open announced they were going to move to the end of September and we were all just in absolute shock.

“That was the middle to end of March and at that time, we thought we didn’t need to make any decisions until the end of April, but the situation moved and evolved so quickly.

“Even though the postponement/cancellation has been on the cards for quite some time, I was still personally in a little bit of shock when you read the press release and the news is confirmed.

“There are a lot of things to take into consideration, like moving dates in the calendar and how that affects other tournaments. When the Olympics were postponed, we looked at whether we could move back later, we looked at the options of playing behind closed doors, but the decision needed to be made early.

“There is a far bigger issue out there and we need to concentrate all efforts on beating this virus has to be a priority.”

Wimbledon overview

An insurance policy against viral pandemics looks set to ensure a large chunk of Wimbledon’s lost revenue for 2020 can be replaced, with Henman confirming that policy taken out 17 years ago will now be activated.

“Insurance is not my specialist subject, but I’d like to think we would have the capacity to support this. Without that, it probably would be catastrophic,” he continued.

“When I am thinking about an insurance policy that might cover the postponement of Wimbledon, I might be thinking about an earthquake or a terrorist attack, but credit to the committee at Wimbledon when it was implemented to have the foresight for that to be in place.”

Henman went on to suggest tennis has a huge battle to resume in 2020, with the last ATP Finals in London under threat unless the ATP and WTA Tours can resume in late summer.

“It is going to be unbelievable challenging for sport in general,” he added. “The impact on the ATP and WTA Tours to the players down the ranking list is going to be incredibly difficult. They are all self-employed and have no income. It’s going to be an incredibly challenging time, both in the short and long term.

“I’m an optimist at heart and I am very keen for there to be tennis wherever and whenever possible later this year and as a huge sports fan, I’m missing it. There are only a certain amount of Ryder Cup re-runs I can watch. Without sport, there is a huge void that can hopefully be filled in the future.”

We will have more from our exclusive chat with Tim Henman in the coming days, with an audio link to the interview available in the coming days.

Follow Kevin Palmer on Twitter @RealKevinPalmer

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